The Joy Formidable (Photo courtesy of Big Hassle Media; Photo credit: James Minchin)
I’m sure Welsh people are brilliant at many things, but one thing I can definitively add to that list is swearing. Ever so casually. Rhiannon “Ritzy” Bryan, lead singer of The Joy Formidable, gave the 9:30 Club crowd an epic glimpse of that brilliance during their show on April 13th.
One of the first, of many, things she told the mostly packed audience was that “the acoustics are f*cking lovely”. Or when she mentioned she used to live in DC years ago, “it was f*cking great.” Just a wee bit of flair that soon proved to be the norm. And when describing why they loved playing at the 9:30 Club, “They brought us cupcakes and dog biscuits. F*cking dog biscuits!”
The Joy Formidable, who also include Matthew James Thomas on the drums and Rhydian Dafydd on bass, are touring for their third studio album, Hitch.
They played a solid mix of songs from all of their albums, including four new songs (of the 13-song set) from Hitch. They also played one new song that is not found on Hitch, called “Passerby”, but is available as a download if you buy Hitch from their site.
Although originally formed in Wales in 2007, they are currently based in London. To record Hitch, which they also self-produced, they did take a one year sojourn in North Wales and apparently recorded a ton of additional songs that didn’t make the album. Maybe they’ll release a few more soon… They recorded their previous two albums while touring, so this marked their first effort to focus solely on making music.
All three members of The Joy Formidable performed front and center on stage, amidst the blue and green waves of light. No hiding in the shadows for this alternative rock band, even Matt, the drummer, was situated stage left, hanging over the edge of the stage, almost close enough to touch.
The show opened with the extended intro and dream-like waves of bass found in “The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade”, with the constant refrain of “this dream is, this dream is” coming into focus to where they are “happy for you, happy for you”.
Later they played the rollicking, “Last Thing On My Mind”, their first single from Hitch. The video shows off the absurdity of sexism, by replacing women with men as the base objects of lust. (Nude man and unicorns? Check.)
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After closing the main set with the bold and foreboding, “The Everchanging Spectrum of a Lie”, they commenced the encore with a strangely cool performance of “The Brook”. Ritzy thought the enthusiastic crowd could mellow out and the venue was intimate enough to perform the slow ballad in the center of the floor.
So Ritzy and Rhydian meandered down through the parting crowd and set up for a acoustic performance that was just audible if you held your breath and listened intently (at least for those unlucky to have been standing off to the side).
“The Brook” live in San Francisco
Two more songs into the encore, they finally closed out the night with an extended, whirring and thumping rendition of “Whirring”.
I first caught The Joy Formidable at the Black Cat in 2011 and then again later that same year when they opened for the Foo Fighters at the Verizon Center. It’s been awhile since they graced DC (I missed them at the Echostage in 2013), but let’s hope another three years don’t whir by before they return.